Forget silver, china, or linens; the best gift you can give a newly married couple is an estate plan! This is especially true if the marriage is a second marriage for either of them. Marrying a person means marrying their financial issues as well; this may include children or responsibilities from a previous marriage, a family business, or wealthy and suspicious parents who still control the purse strings. As this article in CNN Money illustrates, the best way to deal with financial issues is to meet the challenge head on, and to do it as soon as possible—preferably before you walk down the aisle.
There will always be challenges when two people merge their finances, but in the case of a second (or third, or fourth) marriage the issues can be particularly delicate. Will it cause hard feelings if part of one spouse’s income goes to pay child or spousal support? Are college savings for step-children the responsibility of both partners, or only the biological parent? And what happens to joint property if one of you passes away—does it belong to the surviving spouse or to the children of the previous marriage?
One of the biggest steps along the path to financial marital bliss is the creation of a clear plan to ensure that the needs of both the new spouse and the children or obligations from a previous marriage are met. This includes an estate plan to provide for their needs if the unthinkable should happen. If you are coming into a relationship with assets and children from a previous marriage, a trust can be written to ensure that your spouse will be cared for financially but that your children remain the ultimate beneficiaries of your estate.
Discussion and planning early on will set clear boundaries and priorities for everybody, and can go a long way toward easing tensions between two merging families.